Better Than Them
Jonah was a Hebrew. As a Hebrew, he was a recipient of the revelation of God and who He is. Seeking those who would love Him for Himself, God had chosen the Hebrew nation to walk in covenant with Him and enjoy His blessings predicated on keeping His commandments.
But here was Jonah, called of God to preach judgment against Nineveh because of the people's wickedness, and Jonah did not like it. He was a Jew who must have felt superior to the Ninevites and did not believe they deserved God's mercy. After all, Nineveh was idolatrous and cruel.
Believers are worthy of God's favor when viewed in their relationship TO God. Where they once had been rebels and fought against God and righteousness, now that they are made righteous through Christ's atonement, they are in a position to receive God's favor.
But, regardless of their standing before God, believers are not superior in their relationship TO their fellow men and women. Because God transformed them does not make them better than people groveling in sin.
Paul the apostle never forgot how he had fought the Christians and tried to put them to death. He claimed always to be the worst of sinners. Never did he elevate himself to a status above those to whom he preached, nor did he live at their expense. While his behavior and manner of life in righteousness was far superior to that of sinners in rebellion, that righteousness was not of himself, but from and in Christ through His Holy Spirit--and that indebtedness only humbled Paul's heart more and more.
Jonah never learned that lesson, even after his soul was spared from eternal death at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea. Only by the miraculous grace of God was his body dead at sea while his living soul saw hell played out before him as his rightful place of judgment and eternal habitation for his rebellion. That scenario is played out in Jonah's Old Testament book.
When the whale's undigested meal came to himself alive on the beach, Jonah got up and went to Nineveh to preach a fresh message from God. This time the message was more definite and time-limited. "In 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown." Instead of pouncing on Jonah and imprisoning or killing him for being a rabble-rouser, the Ninevites including the king put on sackcloth, even making their animals 'wear' it and fast with their owners who wept before God.
Jonah was angered by their repentance. God was being too merciful to Nineveh and Jonah wanted to die.
"Why are you angry?" God asked. Jonah did not answer. Instead, not sure what difference it would make, Jonah finished his preaching tour and went outside the city wall to see what would happen. While he sat under the shelter from the sun he built for himself, God caused a great plant to grow up and shade Jonah. The plant pleased him very much.
However, the next morning a worm ate vital parts of the plant and it died. No more shade! To top it off, God sent a hot east wind to scorch Jonah and cause sun stroke. Jonah was enraged that the plant was dead and he begged to die!
God asked Jonah if his anger at the dead plant was justified, then put Jonah on notice.
"You lavished your attention on a plant that grew up one day and died the next because it suited your needs. It had no lasting value. Yet, 120,000 eternal souls plus animals live in Nineveh and you're angry that I spared them because they repented."
The book of Jonah doesn't say what Jonah did next. However, Jesus used Jonah's Mediterranean experience as a sign of His own death and resurrection three days later that rescued sinners.
What can we take away from this narrative? Simply and seriously, that souls matter more to God than earthly possessions and events.
In the coming move of God which has already begun, believers must see unsaved souls as lost and on their way to hell forever without God! Winning souls to Jesus must consume us and take precedence over our personal interests and involvements! If it doesn't, revival will die! And what follows will be the worst calamity the world has ever seen!